“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
The book of Proverbs is all about wisdom. Whether it’s in relationships with other people, treatment of material possessions, or growing in the knowledge of God, there’s a word of wisdom for every aspect of life. The opening verses of the book serve as a kind of prologue to the rest of it, establishing the principles of wisdom and why it’s important.
An interesting thing about biblical wisdom, immediately apparent in Proverbs, is that the wise person is teachable. “Let the wise hear and increase in learning,” verse 5 proclaims, “and the one who understands obtain guidance.” Our typical view of a wise person is someone who has all the answers, who has no need to learn anything else because he’s already gained all the knowledge the world has to offer. Yet in this passage, Solomon calls upon the wise to come and listen to his words, to gain even more understanding from what he has to say. In other words, the wise are those who acknowledge that there is always something more for them to learn. What they do know inspires them to continue to grow in knowledge. They admit that even they need guidance, and they look to others for advice as they continue to add to their own wisdom. It is the fools who despise instruction, who think they have everything together and don’t need anyone to tell them what to do. The wise value the insights of others and apply others’ teachings to their own lives.
But more importantly than a teachable spirit, the wise understand that the world is ultimately about God. They learn to fear Him, and because of that reverence for Him, they learn from Him. Wisdom that is not grounded in the fear of the LORD is based instead on human understanding and pride. This is the wisdom of the fools, which elevates mankind above all else. Godly wisdom recognizes that man is not the height of wisdom, and therefore those who seek after it remain teachable. God alone is the source of true wisdom. Wise men humble themselves before Him, gratefully learning from the understanding He so willingly gives to them.
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